Two decades ago, senior Sports Illustrated basketball writer Jack McCallum was part of the committee that selected the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History to honor the league’s golden anniversary.
It was much more than the run-of-the-mill "who’s the best?" sports lists that inhabit every corner of the internet (this website, included). The original 50 Greatest Players were voted on by a prestigious panel and officially recognized by then commissioner David Stern in 1996.
On Tuesday, McCallum published his own updated list – an unofficial one, but still quite credible, given the Basketball Hall of Famer’s distinguished journalistic career. It’s once again a catalog of the top 50 players, though now it’s accounting for 70 years of NBA history.
And this time, instead of just a bucket list of the bunch, McCallum has ranked and ordered the players from 50 to 1.
He recognized the endeavor will result in him receiving "inevitable abuse" from fans angry about placements and snubs. He also addressed several questions, including what to do about active players, injuries and projections.
The original 50 Greatest included two former Bucks players, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Those legends, of course, make the cut again, with McCallum putting Robertson at No. 6 ("When I think of one player who controlled the ball in almost every game he played, I don’t think of Stockton, Isiah, Magic or Curry – it has to be the guy who invented the triple double") and Abdul-Jabbar at No. 2 ("The Begoggled One was a great player for 17 seasons and a very good one for another three").
But in his revised top 50, McCallum added a new guy with a Milwaukee connection.
Longtime point guard and current Bucks head coach Jason Kidd came in at No. 44. McCallum’s write-up was short and sweet for the 10-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA First Teamer, four-time All-Defensive First Teamer and 2011 league champion, who retired in 2013 ranked second on the NBA’s all-time lists in career assists and steals.
"An admirable model for the all-around guard; better shooting and he would be in the 30s," McCallum wrote.
Recently, while in his second season as the Bucks’ coach, Kidd paid the price for his 19 years playing in the NBA. He underwent hip surgery in December and missed more than a month, returning to Milwaukee’s bench in late January to retake control of the team.
The Bucks have two games, Tuesday night at home against Boston and Thursday night hosting Washington, remaining before the All-Star Break.
You can read McCallum's full list of the top 50 players here.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.